Protect your customer base by closing doors
Do you ever get the feeling that your competitors are sniffing around your customers, looking for a way in? That’s because they are. Every day, some salesperson somewhere, is thinking of ways to get in front of your customers to present reasons why they are better off buying elsewhere. The chances are that you will lose customers if you’ve left some crucial doors wide open.
Door One: Pricing
OK, so you don’t sell on price, you sell on value, right? But if you were genuinely expensive when your customer bought, they would have probably made a price judgement anyway and bought from someone else. And they might be making a price judgement now. If you have had a customer for a while, the chances are you have increased their rates. After all, prices go up. The question is, how does the value to price ratio compare today? Are you offering anything more for the price you are now charging, or is the service/product offering the same as it was before three years of 10% annual rate hikes came into play?
Action: Think about what extras you can offer – including loyalty discounts – to keep your customers satisfied with the value they are getting.
Door Two: Overall satisfaction
Lots of little headaches can ultimately become one big one. You may get along famously with your point of contact, but if your respective accounts departments are engaged in combat over invoicing errors, there may be a negative undercurrent. If products aren’t delivered when they should be, or you are regularly out of stock of a particular item, your customer may be less enamoured with you than you think, and when a competitor comes to call emphasising their service, you could be in trouble. Don’t kid yourself that your relationship is strong enough to make up for lousy service.
Action: Have regular meetings with your customers and make it clear that any headaches they may be having related to doing business with your company, are your headaches too. Make a point of getting constructively and positively involved.
Door Three: Roadmap
Even if you aren’t trying to upsell your customers to the latest, greatest versions of your products, you need to at least ensure they are aware of the great things your company is doing. The customer who bought from you two years ago may be perfectly satisfied with what they are getting, right up to the point when a competitor shows them their newest model. That is when you move from being a great supplier, to a peddler in dinosaur relics. When new features are added, let them know about them and explain the benefits as simply as you can. That way when your competitor comes to call, they can be sure of a “our current supplier does that too,” response. Point scored.
Action: Keep your customer up to date on where you are going, what you are doing and how that can add value to them.
Door Four: Value
It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you have and how well you have treated your customer if you cannot describe the value you bring. And don’t rely on them to figure it out; bring it up, regularly. Have a meeting every two or three months and show them how much they have saved through using your products. It is easy enough to do, as long as you know the relative cost benefits of your products versus the one they were using before. Show them all the value ads: the training that has been provided and the benefits of that, the extra information you have provided when they have needed it and the average response time for a query email (which shows how seriously you treat their account).
Action: Be proactive. Make time to schedule a formal session so you can review how things are going with them and the value of your partnership.
Even if you tick all the boxes above, you might not win all the time. People will change at your customer organisations and other things may come into play. But take care of the basics and you’ll remove some of the principal reasons your customers may have for thinking about making changes that affect you negatively.